Help Wanted at Pascagoula Base Oil Plant


Chevron plans to build a world-class API Group II/Group III base oil plant in the Gulf Coast region, industry sources confirmed to Lube Report. The new plant at Chevrons Pascagoula, Miss., refinery complex will have capacity to produce more than 1 million metric tons per year (over 19,200 barrels per day). A help wanted ad last month seeking a planner/scheduler for a Pascagoula Base Oil Project also signaled Chevrons plans.

Rumors about a possible expansion have intensified recently. Some point to Chevrons March 11 security analysts meeting as the most likely place for the projects unveiling. Brent Lok, base oil marketing and new business development manager, declined tocomment on whether Chevron plans to build a new base oil plant.

A Jan. 23 help-wanted listing at specifies that a major oil operator is looking for people to plan and schedule major refinery projects in a Pascagoula, Miss. refinery. Position will require work in Houston and Pascagoula, Miss. on major capital projects, the listing by executive recruiter Swift says. The plan right now is one [planner] will be placed with GMT (General Management Team) and one with PBOP (Pascagoula Base Oil Project).

Stephen Ames, managing director of SBA Consulting in Pepper Pike, Ohio, said at the ICIS Base Oils Conference in London last week that three unidentified paraffinic base oil plants in various countries were expected to go onstream in the 2010-2012 timeframe. A public announcement of one in the U.S. Gulf Coast area was likely next month, Ames said.

A base oil plant with more than 19,200 b/d Group II/III capacity would be the largest new base oil plant constructed in the United States since Excel Paralubes 21,900 b/d Group II plant started operations in 1997. Motivas Port Arthur, Texas, base oil plant, which increased in size through a series of expansions, is the largest in the worldwith 40,300 b/d Group II capacity.

Construction for base oil plants starting from scratch typically takes two to three years from groundbreaking to completion. However, refiners who have a clean-fuels hydrocracker can bolt on hydroisomerization or hydrofinishing facilities to the hydrocracker for the manufacture of Group II and III base oils, Ames told the ICIS meeting. That can reduce the up-front capital and operating costs, and speed up the time to market.

Last October, Chevron announced plans to build a $500 million gasoline production unit in Pascagoula designed to improve equipment reliability and utilization, and allow the refinery to optimize product yields. With completion anticipated by mid-2010, the project is expected to increase gasoline output by about 10 percent, or 600,000 gallons per day. The new unit with updated refinery technology will replace two process units constructed more than 30 years ago. Crude oil capacity will remain the same.

According to a Pascagoula refinery profile at Chevrons Web site, the original refinery in 1961 consisted of a crude unit, a hydrocracking unit, a fluid catalytic conversion unit, a reformer unit, a hydrogen plant, an alkylation plant and several utility plants. In 1968, a $91 million expansion doubled the refinerys capacity by adding additional crude, hydrocracking, hydrogen and reformer units and constructing a sulfur recovery plant.

Initiated in 1974, the $96 million Pascagoula Arabian Modification Project allowed processing of Arabian-type crude oils with higher sulfur content. The project dismantled the existing sulfur plant, and added a reformer, a naphtha splitter, a fluid catalytic conversion feed hydrotreater, a flexible hydrotreater and two sulfur recovery plants.

The Pascagoula Refinery uses heat and catalysts to convert heavier oils to lighter products using three cracking methods: fluid catalytic cracking, hydrocracking (Isomax) and coking (or thermal cracking).

The refinerys manufacturing, storage and shipping facilities consist of 20 major refining process units, more than 200 tanks (600 million gallons total capacity) and four marine terminals with seven berths. It is primarily a fuels refinery, with gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel its primary products. Other products include fuel oils such as bunker fuel, liquefied petroleum gas, aviation gasoline, petroleum coke and sulfur. It also manufactures specialty products that include paraxylene, benzene and ethylbenzene.

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